Spring is back! This weather seems to call every cell of my body outside. In my last post, I promised to provide some information about how being outdoors impacts our well-being. I am now here to deliver on that promise…
The majority of the information I am going to offer here was primarily drawn from the book the Nature Fix by Florence Williams.*
It is a wonderful read – I highly recommend it!
In her book, she discusses the research of Qing Li, an immunologist from the department of environmental medicine at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo. Li’s research is fascinating… it focuses on NK cells, which are a type of white blood natural immune cell. He found that being outdoors boosts the number of these natural immune fighting cells in people’s bodies by 40%, with raised levels continuing to endure in our bodies for several weeks. Li suggests that our NK cells seem to be positively impacted by trees’ phytoncides, which are aromatic oils secreted by many kinds of trees.
In essence, trees support our immune system.
Other researchers have found that just one leisurely walk in the woods decreases our cortisol levels (a stress hormone) by as much as 12%, decreases sympathetic nervous system activity by 7%, and decreases blood pressure by 1.4%
And did you know that a bacteria in dirt called Mycobacterium vaccae has been shown in multiple experiments to help promote the production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter researchers associate with increased happiness?
I am only brushing the surface of the research out there that supports the importance of our connection and engagement with the natural world.
So, get outdoors and enjoy!
Here’s to your relaxation, rejuvenation, and wellness.
Here’s to our precious natural world.
*Williams, F. (2017). the Nature Fix. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
In late May through mid-June, we journeyed quite a bit… relishing weekends camping, hiking, and white water rafting in three strikingly different Midwestern landscapes. I notice how my experience of my interior world is intimately and deeply impacted by my environment:
Within the lush green and gentle falls in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I find myself feeling protected by the cover of forest canopy above, and lulled by the sound of trickle and light fall of water.
In the sandy expanse of the Indiana Dunes disappearing into the waves of Lake Michigan at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, I am aware of my freedom, as well as the illusions of constancy I often cling to in life. I feel my surrender to the sand moving underneath my toes; the sound of the water rhythmically arriving and departing against the shore; the feeling of the breeze swirling around me… to the arrival and departure of my breath, of my thoughts, of each moment… to my ever changing and moving life.
The walk-in campsites at the National Lakeshore campground were lovely. And during one of our hikes at the dunes, we had privilege of watching a bald eagle perched and gracefully take flight.
Rafting through the powerful rapids in New River Gorge, West Virginia, I was aware of my tiny size and the intensity of the forces around me. Those crashing waters! Those jutting rocks! That bright hot sun shining down on my skin! I was so small in the raft, using my little arms to push water with all my might, hands clutched onto the oar as I worked to maintain my balance and keep from being tossed into the water and rocks around me. My heart beat fast and my breathing was quick. And then we would pass through to calmer waters… and, as my heartbeat and breathing eased, I noticed the stunning nature around me. Then, helmets on, start to brace – we’ve got another rapid coming!
I am so thankful to find myself in each of these landscapes. For the land to bring me back to such different elements of my own be-ing. To be reminded of all the ways in which earth and I are truly one.
As I witness the unfolding of leaves and petals, I notice my own physical and emotional being mirror their movements. From a position of snuggled up, holding in warmth to protect myself from frigid temperatures, I gradually find myself stretching out more, exposing my limbs and feet to the sunlight, to the breeze, to the falling raindrops.
I find such an ease in this process of unfolding… as though there was a deep longing buried in winter that seems to emerge and eagerly soak up sunlight, raindrops, and as many floral scents in my landscape as possible…a reverberating exaltation… a resounding Yes!!
This weekend my partner and I camped, rested, hiked, and mountain biked at Caesar Creek State Park in Ohio.
We found ourselves mesmerized by the movement of the water, by the brilliance of the sunset, by the chatter of the songbirds, by the dance and flicker of the campfire…
Spring has come back again. The Earth is
like a child that knows poems by heart.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke